What makes a good (Finnish) Minister?

As the editor of this newspaper, I thought it might be instructive to review the question of what makes a good minister. The question came up at a recent press conference that Minister Lintilä organised here in Helsinki. He is a Centre Party Minister for Economic Affairs and Employment. He is certainly not an economist, nor does he pretend to be an intellectual. He comes over as a man who talks and connects with ordinary folk and with companies. He is diligent and travels and talks also with his counterparts in the EU and elsewhere in the world when he travels with delegations. At the this last press meeting he told the story that his counterparts in Thailand had the same problem finding skilled staff for AI and other digital solutions as we have in Finland. When talking about how the demand for workers is not being met by the supply he talked about men and women being imprisoned by not having enough education or the right education, he talked about unemployed single young men in the country-side and in urban centres as prisoners of their background and insufficiencies. He spoke about new industrial developments in the far-flung corners of Finland. We are a big country geographically with a small population! He spoke about the need to get SME’s to grow and to increase our country’s exports. 

Thus the impression is not of a minister who talks from verbose PowerPoints in a stuttering manner, and we have plenty of those Ministers, but one who talks and listens to others. Like all ministers, he is surrounded by civil servants who tread carefully and avoid the pitfalls of appearing rash and careless. They are the conservative, careful brakes on a minister’s power. But even though he is surrounded by such good men and women, he seems able to use them in a wise manner by taking more risks and taking bigger steps than many predecessors.

So the question arises – is this a good Minister?

The answer has to be that this is a good Minister because a person who is prepared to talk openly and calmly about hard and difficult topics, a person who is open to debate without closing the door on alternatives and is prepared to stand up for his own doings is a good Minister.

Any government can best be measured by the degree of openness of its ministers. If openness is just 144 characters or less from a Twitter account, or from the odd controlled radio interview, as is the Prime Minister’s habit, then we are not served well. 

If we never see the Minister except for big announcements of new policies that are soon called off then we are not served well – this is Transport Minister. 

If we never hear much more than a squeak from the Minister of Finance, then we are not served well… 

The Education Minister has been active along side the Health Minister but their comments are just political and appear not to be open for debate, so that does not serve us well.  

The two respective Ministers for Justice and Interior are younger folk too and they appear more open to debate so that is useful, but the biggest flaw in our government must be with the Foreign Minister who says nothing, does nothing and is nothing except adores Trump and wants to make abortions illegal. 

His job has been taken over by the President of the Republic and for that we must be thankful. Now that is a politician who has been and seen much and has ended up at 70 years old to be a better one too than most of the rest!

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